8-12 hours
makes 6-10 quarts
Chicken stock is something I use on a regular basis – but I never buy it. Instead, I use the scraps and bits of what I have on hand to produce a delicious (and cheap!) elixir. It’s not a big production: in fact, it’s downright easy - toss stuff in a pot and let it cook all night long.
  • skin, bones, and pan juices of a roasted chicken (or 2)
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 2 large carrots
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • stalks from 1 bunch parsley, plus a few leaves too
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4-5 peppercorns

chicken carcass in the pot

In the aftermath of a roast chicken dinner, I make overnight chicken stock. For one chicken carcass, I use an 8 quart stockpot. Naturally, I strip all the meat off the chicken bones. Remove any lemon or herbs from the cavity, then put the carcass into the stockpot: the skin, bones, miscellaneous icky bits, and any pan juices. Often I’ll put 2-3 cups of water into the roasting pan, bring it to a boil, and scrape up any baked-on bits. This goes into the stockpot too – it’s flavor!

now add vegetables

You can use scraps and peelings saved during the week. I don’t put cabbage or its cousins in the stockpot, but just about anything else goes. Leek greens are especially good to use. If I have no trimmings, I use celery, carrots, and onion at a minimum. Take 2 stalks celery, leaves and all, hack them into 4-5 inch lengths, and toss them in. Take 2 large carrots, unpeeled of course, and split them lengthwise. Cut them in half and in they go. Cut the root end off a large onion, but do not peel it, unless of course the peel is sandy or dirty. Chop it into quarters and add to the stockpot. Add a bay leaf, and if you have any parsley, the stalks are best used in stock (save the leaves for another use.)

season the pot, then fill with water

Add the herbs you’re using – at minimum, I use one or two bay leaves and some peppercorns. Add 1 tsp salt and fill the pot with water, up to an inch from the top, completely covering the chicken and vegetables.

bring it to a boil, then simmer all night

Bring the pot to a rolling boil, and then turn down the heat to the bare minimum possible. The liquid should emit only an occasional bubble and maintain a gentle simmer. I leave the stockpot to simmer all night long. It looks fairly awful, but the whole house smells wonderful, with the promise of good soup.

in the morning, toss the debris

By the morning, it looks terrible, with various unappetizing floating bits. Don’t worry, this is perfectly normal, and you won’t be eating that stuff anyway – all the goodness has gone into the liquid. Spoon out as much of the debris as you can into a heatproof bowl or pan, and let it cool, before bundling it into the trash.

strain and cool the stock

Strain the stock through a medium-mesh strainer into another pot or storage container – expect about 4 quarts. I don’t aim for perfect clarity in my stock – as I have said before, I’m a rustic cook, not a perfectionist.  Let the stock stand at room temperature, uncovered, for an hour, and then cover it and chill thoroughly. Since I live in Michigan, during the winter my garage is my walk in cooler (if not a freezer) and I have a special cold shelf where I will put the covered container. By the next morning, the fat will rise to the top and solidify, making it easy for me to remove it.

and you have stock!

I usually can chicken stock in pints, for convenience. Meat and poultry stocks require a pressure canner for safe preservation, but if you have the proper equipment, the process is quite straightforward. Look for another post soon!

reduce the stock if you’re not canning it

If you do not wish to can the stock, then I would suggest that you remove the solidified fat, and then bring the stock to a boil again, and reduce it by about half. If you must freeze stock, why not concentrate it? Reduce to a manageable volume, cool the stock, and package conveniently.


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